Years ago, we watched television programming interrupted by brief commercial breaks. Slowly but surely, we are moving toward watching commercials interrupted by brief bursts of programming. As the commercials increase in quantity, many are decreasing in effectiveness. Let us look at where we are today.
On a recent day in May, I counted the number of commercials on one major network in a 30 minute period. The total was 33. This ridiculous quantity leads to such viewer behavior as:
1. Changing channels to see if another network is still in program mode.
2. Pressing the mute button until a commercial sequence ends.
3. Resolving not to buy certain advertised products, usually those – –
a. Whose commercial is repeated to excess, sometimes even twice in the same sequence or
b. Whose presentation is excessively silly, irrelevant, confusing, or even filled with dire warnings about dangers associated with the product.
One wonders if advertisers are even aware of their commercials causing such viewer reactions.
As the quantity of commercials has increased, more of the advertising seems to be downright irrelevant or even negative. I suppose this comes from the producers of commercials exhausting their creativity in an overly saturated marketplace. For example, we are apparently supposed to get interested in buying a vehicle because we have watched it crash through a wall or into a chandelier hanging in the desert! These examples are so irrelevant that I cannot even remember the names or models of the vehicles advertised. I just spend a couple of seconds wondering what unusual theories are behind the creation of such presentations. Another negative example is the advertising of some prescription medicines. We are told that a product might help condition X but then legally cautioned that it might also stimulate thoughts of suicide or cause a heart condition or even lead to death. My usual reaction is to resolve never to use that product.
I do not know how much worse the situation can get. However, I believe that it is time for a consumer revolution. Years ago, ad revenue paid for programming. Today, television networks get revenue from both ads and cable or satellite companies. It seems that there should be no financial need making it necessary to increase the quantity of advertising to truly excessive levels. Here are some consumer actions that might help correct the situation:
1. WE should encourage one or more consumer organizations to rate all major networks on average times per hour devoted to advertising. Time measurement would help discourage a switch to fewer but longer commercials.
2. Then, as consumers, we should begin moving away from networks with the highest advertising time ratings.
3. We should write to companies that sponsor irrelevant ads and promise to boycott their products.
The goal of consumers should be to end the excessive number of television commercials but still allow a reasonable level, perhaps 9 or 10 brief commercials per 30 minutes of air time. A study by the consumer rating organization could suggest a maximum total time for such a reasonable number of commercials. Our role can be to become active rather than passive consumers who watch the current problem get worse and worse.